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Social Capitalist Project, Explained

Social Capitalists

Social Capitalist Project, Explained

What is a social capitalist?

This competition has a distinct point of view. To become a social capitalist, an organization has to do more than just make a difference; it must also understand the system that creates the social problem it addresses, and have a clear theory of why its efforts will overhaul that system. It has to be more than just a well-run business; it must also have an innovative, big idea driving its existence or its business model.

How did we choose the winners?

We started with 226 nominations -- half from our experts and the rest self-nominated. Of those, 118 agreed to submit to evaluation, which required three years of audited financials and tax filings, online surveys, and a 90-minute interview. We also gathered reviews from 12 panels of experts from the fields in which finalists operated. Winners aren't ranked; four are featured with photos for editorial reasons.

Last year's winners were automatically nominated for this year's list, but had to resubmit to the evaluation process. Not all winners from last year agreed to participate for reasons ranging from time constraints to launching new initiatives or strategy shifts that they felt might affect their chances to make the list.

What are the criteria for a social capitalist?

The evaluation categories are: social impact, entrepreneurship innovation, aspiration and growth, and sustainability.

Social Impact

What we look for regarding social impact is demonstrated effect and a big-picture approach.

Ideally, your organization tracks metrics that correlate to your mission and goals. Those might include stats on the number of clients you serve, their progress (in reading scores, employment, housing status or other relevant measure) or pieces of legislation passed as a result of your efforts. We understand that many things are difficult and costly to measure. So we *do* reward your thinking along these lines as well as your actual stats. We are also interested in anecdotal information about your effect; but it takes more than a few testimonials to build a case for impact. The examples you provide should be compelling and indicative of trends.

We also look for what we call "systemic impact." We want to know how your efforts effect not only the direct audience you serve, but how your work changes the system. That can mean making structural changes to a formal system (such as a school system or a government process, or it can mean creating new systems that produce different outcomes. For example, two-year winner Room to Read builds libraries and schools in developing nations. To do so, it enlists the communities themselves, which are required to donate land or provide labor to build the facilities. By stimulating the community, Room to Read's work leaves in place a social support system for valuing the education of children in these villages. One question to ask is this: What has your organization set in motion that continues to perpetuate good outcomes, above and beyond the delivery of service itself?


This category applies to the original big idea behind your organization: How is what you're doing a different or better approach to solving a social problem than other ideas that have come before? It also applies to the structure of the organization: How is your business organized or run that is different or innovative. And, it applies to your culture: How does the organization continually troll for good ideas, and implement the ones it finds to their fullest potential?


This category addresses the ability to galvanize resources, be they people, monies, partnerships or other assets that allow you to do what you do. We look for organizations that are scrappy, know how to do a lot with a little, and are effective at implementing growth strategies. We also look for organizations whose cultures reflect the creative nature of entrepreneurs.

Growth and Aspiration

Here, we're looking for your plans and your ability to execute on them. How far can your idea go? How fast do you think you can get there? What about your organization's past performance make those targets realistic ones?


This category is about the organization's stability and adaptability. How has leadership responded to crises in the past? How diverse are your income sources? How flexible is the organization?

Where do the grades come from?

Each category in the methodology (social impact, innovation, entrepreneurship, sustainability and aspiration and growth) generated a score, which together comprised a company's overall standing. We translated those category scores into grades to give a sense of where our winners particularly excelled. We do not release raw scores, as this is not a ranked competition.

What is Monitor Group's role in the awards?

Monitor Group managed the evaluation process, created the weighting system, and conducted executive director interviews. Monitor Group has a long-standing strategic relationship with New Profit Inc., a venture philanthropy fund -- which was, therefore, not eligible for the award. Monitor also provides project teams and CEO coaches to support strategic development of organizations in New Profit's portfolio. Three New Profit groups -- College Summit, Jumpstart, and New Leaders for New Schools -- were selected as 2005 Social Capitalists.